by Teaching Artist Pamm Hanson
COVID-19 forced me to step up to a steep learning curve to learn to teach on Zoom! I tried to keep my attitude strong and I leaned into the generous support from PwA staff and the patience and support from the class participants. Whew!
Then we began to feel some of the benefits of being together virtually – ease of access; a sense of community without risks and demands navigating in-person group dynamics. I was surprised how close I felt to the group. But oh my how I missed walking about a working studio classroom! Oh how I love the hum of artists working together, alone with each work but all together holding the space safe and possible. How we need this as artists. There is so much risk involved in making marks, putting paint on canvas. No one can do it for me, so I really need the support of artistic community, from other artists who understand.
There is nothing safe about making art, so our spaces where we make art must feel safe. I was awed by how much of this connection we could muster through Zoom! But I also know just how deeply we can hold it by simply sitting and working quietly together.
Yet the pandemic has changed us and the threat lingers and changes. I am signed up to teach a painting class in Q4 – in-person. I feel the pull of participating artists I might miss because the class is in-person. Oh I hate to miss them! And, of course, the nagging question if I will have to wear a mask! (I am so sick of masks!!). I have my fingers crossed and I am glad I am a painter so studio classroom is BIG, AIRY and puts less pressure on a decision about a more challenging physical space.
As artists we have a responsibility toward ourselves and toward each other. So how do we act responsibly making our decisions about when to gather and when to stay separate?
I have decided my primary responsibility is to my art practice. What furthers me? What are my parameters for a feeling of creative freedom and positive health care? I do not want to be in a position that puts pressure on my feeling of health risk. I need to trust the people sitting with me. I need to be clear about the physical space around that I need, whatever that is. I need to make informed choices, and I need to own my own choices without apology.
I wish I had some magic wand to make my studio classroom magically safe from physical and psychological harm! I fiercely do my best, but I cannot give guarantees. And, I need help from the participants working with me, to let me know what they need, to engage in creative problem-solving to get as close as possible to what each individual artist needs. And, I can hope to foster a feeling in the studio that allows for repair and healing if and when something happens to raise anxiety.
So I am leaning into returning to the studio classroom! Awkwardly but surely! And, I need everyone joining me in that studio to join with a generous spirit of working together to find our way through these new and unfamiliar times. It is not a time to take things personally, to go to distrust before trust. How radical to assume we all want the best for each other in the studio so each artist can take radical risks in their work! As Flaubert said: “Be regular and orderly in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Let us be careful and kind in our gathering so we can take the risks necessary to finish that painting!!